By Russell Tassicker
Hello ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to my first article on the mtgcast network. Consider this a pilot article, so to speak. My name is Russell, and I’m a casual/multiplayer magic player from Perth, Australia, which must be the most isolated city in the world that holds its own Regionals tournament – keep that in mind for your next game of magic trivial pursuit. I hope to be writing a series of casual oriented articles, so there’ll be little talk of tournaments, metagames and so on. I love reading about that stuff but out here it’s impossible to get to a tournament bigger than FNM more than a couple of times a year, unless you count our ~50 person prereleases.
For my first article I’m going to go through the design of my latest casual deck, based around the shadowmoor rare [Enchanted Evening]. Cards that change the rules of the game are some of my favourites, and similarly to [Mycosynth Lattice], [Living Plane] and so on, this expensive enchantment makes all other permanents enchantments as well as what they were before. 5 mana and a card may sound like a lot to do essentially nothing – a [Woolly Thoctar] that’s also an enchantment will still be beating you in the face for 5 the next turn – but that’s what build-around-me rares are for! There was some buzz about comboing this card with [Patrician’s Scorn] for a 5 mana [obliterate] when shadowmoor first previewed, but it never developed into anything competitive. So, what real differences does [Enchanted Evening] being in play make? Every permanent being an enchantment turns [Disenchant] into [Desert Twister], makes [yavimaya enchantress] a huge/huge creature, gives [Azorius First Wing] protection from permanents, makes [cleansing meditation] a ludicrous bomb and probably makes licids far more confusing than is worth the trouble. Great, a mention of licids in the first article, off to a good start then!
Another group of cards I’ve been wanting to use in a deck are the Onna cycle from Kamigawa, and [[Nikko-Onna]] looks like it will pair very with enchanted evening, becoming a vindicate with a 2/2 body attached. Better yet, whenever you play a spirit or arcane spell you get to bounce it to your hand, which means another vindicate the next time you have 2W available and the chance to play a creature. Both Nikko and [Haru-Onna] are spirits so they can bounce each other to their hearts’ content, wiping the opponents board and drawing through my library. The other Onna cards do useful things, but not as useful as these two in an Enchanted Evening deck, so I’ll take four of each of the white and green versions and add them to four [enchanted evening]s. I may remove some of the evenings later if I wind up drawing too many duplicates, but since it’s crucial to the main game plan and the alternative is currently [gray ogre] beatdown, I’m inclined to give myself as much chance of drawing it as possible.
The onna theme demands support in the form of spirit and/or arcane spells, which are only found in kamigawa block so we won’t have to look too much further to find some. A quick search on magiccards.info turns up a few gems, especially [Otherworldly Journey] – a white arcane instant that blinks one of the onnas until the end of turn, and lets me bounce another back to my hand. [Quiet Purity] and [Wear Away] jump out as well but we’ll just have the cheaper one for now, and [Shining Shoal] is a very strong combat trick that gives me something to do with excess [Enchanted Evening]s. [Ethereal Haze] would be worth considering if fog didn’t tend to draw groans from all corners of the table, which tends to rule it out of most of my decks. If you haven’t experienced this phenomenon, start putting [Tangle] and [Constant Mists] in your casual decks and you’ll soon see what I mean. Let’s see what I’ve got so far:
4 Enchanted Evening
4 Otherworldly Journey
4 Quiet Purity
4 Shining Shoal
These 24 cards make up the core of our board control efforts, centering around landing an [enchanted evening] that will let us destroy permanents at our lesiure. In order to do this we need to get an enchanted evening into our hand, and pay 3WW to play it (as without a good reason I’d like to stay in just W and G). This will mean either staying alive long enough to play 5 lands, or accelerating – I’m inclined to go the second path as I don’t have any life gain or counterspells to protect me from burn yet. Fortunately green is an excellent colour for accelerating, and [Kodama’s Reach] not only takes me from 3 to 5 mana, it is also an arcane spell so it’s not a dead draw later in the game. [Sakura-Tribe Elder] also pulls double duty as a blocker against aggro decks, and an accelerant and deck thinner. Adding these two cards to accelerate my mana, the only worries i can see now are indestructible fatties like [Darksteel Colossus] and swarm decks, like Elves and Goblins. I’ll add [Scour] to take care of otherwise unkillable guys permanently, and since we’ve come this far with kamigawa-only cards (bar evening) I’ll use [Aether Shockwave] to jankily take care of swarms rather than [Austere Command] or [Wrath of God]. So, with these cards to shore up the supposed weak points of the deck, lets see what our completed list of spells looks like:
4 Sakura-Tribe Elder
4 Quiet Purity
4 Otherworldly Journey
4 Shining Shoal
4 Kodama’s Reach
4 Aether Shockwave
4 Enchanted Evening
At this stage, 12 [Plains] and 8 [Forest] is a reasonable starting point for the manabase. As I have 8 spells that fix the mana and the deck is only 2 colours, I won’t bother with any nonbasic lands. If the colours are easy enough I’d like to try [Reliquary Tower] from Conflux – depending on how many cards I draw off [Haru-Onna], it might be useful to be able to have 8 or more cards in hand, especially with Onnas going in and out of play. If you have a surplus of [Pendelhaven]s in your collection there is no harm in adding one on the off chance that it will pump a [Sakura-Tribe Elder] into a reasonable blocker, but it is not a big deal either way. I will look at good staple lands of casual play in a future article, and [Pendelhaven] is a perfect example.
So, at this stage the deck is ready for construction and testing. I whack the deck together and invite my friend Mike around for some duels. He has a new deck and a couple of rejigged old favourites to test, starting with a GW deck featuring [Loxodon Heirarch], [Wilt Leaf Liege] and [Primalcrux]. I roll a 1 to decide who goes first, so Mike promptly draws his seven and lays down a [[Wooded Bastion]]. We both spend the first few turns ramping up, I play out 3 [sakura tribe elder]s by turn 3 and Mike plays a [rampant growth] and a [kitchen finks]. Turn 4 the action starts as I play an [Enchanted Evening] and Mike promptly [Oblivion Ring]s it, a play I’m not sorry to see as it gives me a chance to play [Scour], and get rid of the scourge of casual tables everywhere, the mighty O-ring. Mike plays a pair of [Loxodon Heirach]s and attacks me for 11, but I’m starting to warm up my combo and use [Nikko-Onna] and [Otherworldly Journey] to kill his elephants. Mike attacks me down to 3 life but runs out of cards in hand and I draw a [Haru Onna], and with all the land I have in play I can kill more threats than he can lay each turn. Even the impressive amount of life he’s gained will eventually be worn down by my 2/2s, so he concedes.
A good start for my new creation, against a decent midrange deck. Having mountains of reusable spot removal overwhelmed the number of threats Mike could play, and eventually the result became inevitable. I did note the deck was even slower to establish superiority than I expected. For the next game Mike got out his elf combo deck, modelled on the pro-tour winning extended one but modified due to the cards he had available. I lose the roll for first turn again and spend my first few turns ramping up with Elders, into a 4th turn [Enchanted Evening] once again. Meanwhile, Mike plays [Elvish Visionary], [Fecundity] a pair of [Llanowar Elves] and a turn 5 [Imperious Perfect]. On my turn 5 I use [Nikko-Onna] to kill Fecundity and Quiet Purity to take out the perfect, and pass the turn back to his 3 elves. When he starts turn 6 with a [Glimpse of Nature] I know I’m in for a rough turn and Mike doesn’t disappoint with 2 [Essence Warden]s, 2 [Heritage Druid]s, an [Imperious Perfect] and an [Elvish Promenade] for 10, followed by another Fecundity. Harsh. On my turn I kill the [Fecundity] and wait to die, and mike promenade’s again, ending the game on 89 life and with over 30 elves in play.
[Aether Shockwave] was in my hand in this game, but it wouldn’t have helped for more than a turn. This is no [Cryptic Command] as in faeries decks, as tapping down a bunch of blockers to attack for 4 with two Onnas is not nearly as gamewinning as tapping them down to swing for 10 with a bunch of flying tokens. I’ll have to get a better way to handle swarm decks if I want this deck to be mildly competitive. For game 3 I wanted to try against a control deck, so Mike got out his Bant Control concoction. I finally won the roll and went first. I ramped up with [Kodama’s Reach] this time, but I didn’t get [Enchanted Evening] until I top decked it for turn 6. The same turn Mike played out a [Rhox War Monk], and I tried to kill the Rhino Enchantment with [Quiet Purity] but it was fizzled by [Plaxmanta]! This innocuous looking beast is the scourge of targeted removal. The following turn I play a Haru-Onna which Mike [Bant Charm]s, but i take advantage of him being tapped out to [Scour] his monk, getting all 4 of the irritatingly hard to stop 3/4s out of his deck. Despite this good news things turn sour for me quickly, as Mike protects his guys with counterspells and when I try to [Scour] his [Rafiq of the Many] it meets a [Draining Whelk], countering my spell and putting a 5/5 flier on the other side of the table. When Mike swings with a 6/6 flying doublestriker thanks to Rafiq’s encouragment from the sidelines, I [Shining Shoal] for 12 to attempt to redirect all the damage to the Legendary Human Knight. Mike casts [Plaxmanta] in response, and we are stuck in a rules quandary. I can’t target Rafiq because of Plaxmanta, but do I still prevent the damage? With our playgroup’s rules lawyers not present, we assume I do prevent it as otherwise I’m totally screwed (If anyone can enlighten us as to the proper outcome, please do so in the comments!). I [Nikko-Onna] his Rafiq the next turn but it doesn’t matter as he uses [Sower of Temptation] to steal my 2/2 spirit and then swings for my life total.
So, 1-2 after a few test games. I now feel the deck could use some mass removal, as it hardly ever has creatures on the table. I might have to break the Kamigawa theme constraints and grab some [Austere Command]s or [Fracturing Gust]s. Another weakness was the lack of a big finisher. 2/2s will get there eventually but it’s quite a time consuming way to play, and relies on establishing complete control – a big creature will make it much easier to win games. [Yavimaya Enchantress] gets huge depending on the number of enchantments in play, and with [Enchanted Evening] out that is an awful lot! I would probably swap the [Aether Shockwave]s and [Shining Shoal]s for Commands and Enchantresses, as it will make the deck tougher and give it a much better win condition. [Haru-Onna] was also quite weak, as [Harmonise] gives you 3 cards for the same cost, but I think I’ll try to stay on theme at least that much. I had no trouble at all with the manabase with the high number of accelerants I had so no changes are needed there. This deck was fun to play as it’s always got something to do, rather than just turning [Knight of Meadowgrain]s sideways until your opponent falls over.
Well there we have it, my first article for mtgcast. Please let me know what you thought of the deck and the writing, and what you’d like to see in the future from a casual/multiplayer oriented column. I expect to be doing deck development articles like this one around half the time, with the other half being split between casual/multiplayer theory, new set reviews and mtg opinion pieces – but I’d love to hear your thoughts!